Truthfully, when singer-songwriter James Bay, 25, arrived on stage, it was surprisingly subdued for a man of his increasingly renowned calibre.
Even he’d admit that. It wasn’t much of a crowd, at least at first. “Come on Manchester! You’re better than that?” said James, a lot.
He sang, they watched. He span, they stood or even sat.
Cameras were held by fans aplenty, recording Snapchats and YouTube clips they could have easily watched at home.
The girls did scream to be fair, but what does that even mean?
I was given tickets to sit upstairs which was comical to say the least, after realising that it was inherently sombre.
Fans would stand up momentarily and frolic along to the music, drinks in their hands and with sheer elation in their eyes.
Before disgruntled members of the crowd got out of their seats to inform them that they’d been dancing in their way and they couldn’t see. The confusion was hilarious. ‘Is this a real gig?’ they thought.
I snuck into the standing area to witness fans swaying slowly next to each other with perfectly spaced gaps between each person.
It was a modest gig, if not filled with zombies, so to speak.
Watching someone flaunt their lone lighter in the air in celebration for more than a minute, for example, was a huge spectacle.
Until, after a number of James Bay versions of Freddy Mercury-esque call-backs, the atmosphere erupted and the zombies became feral.
And let me tell you, God this guy can perform:
Aside from his soppy compositions and repetitive choruses, there aren’t many singer-songwriters I’ve seen at close quarters that have fully convinced me that they’re born rockstars.
It sounds over the top but James Bay, I can assure you, is a born rockstar that I think hasn’t written the right song yet.
We’re not a nation that’s buying into rock music anymore, and we’ve developed a culture whereby his style of music has become popular.
So, fortunately, we’re able to witness the progression of talent who remain rough around the edges that we may not have been privy to had this style of music not been in fashion.
If I’m being brutally honest, James’ songs weren’t that impressive, but what was hugely impressing was his musicianship.
He performed a five minute guitar solo during his rendition of Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You, and you could tell that he absolutely felt it.
His level of playing was great to watch as he produced lick after lick. Not to mention being accompanied by his powerful, soulful voice.
But this is exactly why James Bay is simply inevitable.
His competitors are George Ezra, Hozier, and Ed Sheeran, to name a few, and he’s recently broken onto US soil, but there’s so much more to come from the Brighton man it’s unbelievable.
Watch a snippet of his performance with Hold Back The River:
Image courtesy of InfoGibraltar, with thanks.